When we discuss Generational Marketing, we’re talking about how to market to specific age groups. This has been the oracle of how we define and market products to the public. Marketers ask themselves:
Who do we want to appeal to?
How can we explain our product to them?
How will we get them to be interested?
As a whole, this seems to make sense, because different age groups have different experiences with the social culture in which they’ve grown up. Baby Boomers grew up with the revolution of TV, where the Millennial generation grew up with the discovery of the smartphone. Here’s an age-old stereotype:
Kids today… they’re always on their phones!
Most older people, not of the Millennial generation, say this all the time. They think teens, are always on their phones, always checking out a new app, always texting, tweeting, taking selfies and posting. They have labeled Millennials as self-centered, lazy, and narcissistic. But the thing about this stereotype is… their former generations were calling these Baby Boomers the same thing.
It’s not just “kids” who are on their phones. Young professionals, parents and tech-savvy creatives are using their smartphone constantly, because it is a device that has integrated itself into our daily personal and professional lives. Smartphones make our lives run smoother. So, the new stereotype would more accurately be:
Kids today, and young professionals, and parents, and those tech-savvy creative’s… they’re always on their phones, living their lives exactly how someone in the 21st century should, because of the mind-blowing technology that is at our fingertips these days!
When we’re talking about new media, like social media, it’s just a new technology device that older generations are hesitant to jump on board with. A very clever talk from comedian, Adam Conover, explained that most inventions and ideas are accepted, discussed and revolutionized from the time of our childhood to age 35. After age 35, most people become skeptical about “new” inventions and devices. There’s a correlation between these labels and age, using “new media” as a way to label the Millennial generation.
As a result, marketer cave into these stereotypes, especially the idea that the millennial generation is purely DIGITAL and SOCIAL MEDIA based. They think the only way to advertise to Millennials is through social media. Keep in mind that Millennials have over $200 billion in buying power, so naturally, people want to market their products to this generation, because the revenue capabilities are endless. But studies have shown that Millennials don’t WANT to be marketed to. They don’t want to be influenced in their buying decisions.
So what other problems can arise from trying to specifically target Millennials via social media marketing?
- Underestimating the audience’s intelligence
- Trying to be the “hip” brand by overusing the social language at inappropriate times
Digital users of any generation are a smart group of people. Social media has allowed us the rare opportunity to share (and overshare) everything in our lives. We have our very own corner of the internet to tell our specific story. That’s amazing. It also makes it pretty hard to sell us on anything that doesn’t appeal to us genuinely, or in a social environment. So, when you have a serious campaign trying to play the emoji game, it makes it seem condescending.
There are actual successful viral and social media campaigns out there. When it’s done organically and without cramming messages down the throats of its audience, it can work. But it still doesn’t fully answer:
How does one actually advertise to the Millennial generation?
Answer: STOP TRYING.
We need to turn marketing our products into an actual conversation in order to reach, not only the Millennial audience, but all generational audiences. Everyone is in a more submersed social environment, and the fact that Millennials have grown up with that technology as part of their culture, just means they have grown up holding less appeal in the traditional bombardment of advertising messages. But we’re all in that together. None of us like clickbait. None of us like creepy cookie messages that follow you around. It’s off-putting and disengaging. The whole thing is, Millennials aren’t separated from any ad demographic, they’re integrated with Baby Boomers, and other generations utilizing social media.
What would appeal to me in a social setting AND a social media setting?
Really, we’re looking at how you can be successful with social media marketing and viral marketing, and how you can market to everybody. It just means that the demographics for social media are not as niche as we think. They appeal to everybody using social media, and when not executed properly, they disengage all users, regardless of age or generation.